Spring football, SoCon baseball, and some Beautiful Bulldogs

It was a busy weekend at The Citadel. Corps Day Weekend always is, of course. This year, there were also a number of varsity sporting events that took place at around the same time.

The basketball team was in Asheville for the Southern Conference tournament there, while the wrestling team was in Lexington, Virginia, for the SoCon championships in that sport. The tennis team played on campus on Sunday, and the baseball team hosted Samford in a three-game series to open league play. The football team played its spring game at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday.

The wrestling team finished third in the league, and had three wrestlers win individual titles. Odie Delaney won his fourth Southern Conference title, the first time a wrestler at The Citadel has ever done so. The program appears to be in fine shape for the future as well, despite this being Delaney’s final year.

Saturday was a really nice day in Charleston, sunny and almost warm if you weren’t in the shadows. I wandered onto campus in time to see the end of the morning parade, which was very well attended. I don’t remember Corps Day being that popular, but maybe things have changed. The weather also helped, I’m sure.

After the parade, I walked over to Johnson Hagood Stadium for the spring game, although I first stopped to take a gander at the contestants for the “Most Beautiful Bulldog” competition, many of which were in costume. There were ballerina outfits, a dog dressed like a biker (complete with motorcycle goggles), a Batman-and-Robin combo…you get the idea.

The contest is a hoot, and a nice bit of PR for The Citadel. There is a short video synopsis of the event on Youtube: Link

You can also see some good pictures of the dogs/event via the school’s Facebook page: Link

I’m a big fan of the live mascot program; as I have often noted, re-instituting it is one of the better things The Citadel has done over the past decade. General and Boo were both around to see the other bulldogs put through their paces. Those two still look good, but it is also true that both dogs are now nine years old. General will turn 10 in June, and that’s a relatively advanced age for the breed. I was reminded of that while watching them “inspect” a bullpup on Saturday.

After leaving that area, I then watched the spring game, leaving late in the third quarter to get over to Riley Park for the baseball contest.

I’ll make a few comments about the football game, even though I won’t pretend to have much of an opinion on any of the action. I’ve always felt a bit ambivalent about the spring game, mainly because I don’t know who I should support. The Citadel? Or The Citadel?

(I posted that conundrum on Twitter and immediately got an appropriate answer: always root for the medical staff.)

The passing game wasn’t very good on Saturday. This was not entirely due to the quarterbacks. The receivers have to do a better job of, well, receiving. There was a very nice TD throw from Aaron Miller to Dalton Trevino, though. That was an interesting pass pattern, something to watch this fall.

Brandon McCladdie had an outstanding interception on a long pass attempt downfield. He was in midseason form.

Trey White looks like he is going to be a fine player (though he had a fumble that was returned for a TD). It’s always good to have depth at the quarterback position.

If you need something to worry about, worry about the punting. Based on what I saw on Saturday, the Bulldogs have work to do in that department. Luckily, there is still plenty of time to iron things out.

It was good to see guys like Rickey Anderson and Chris Billingslea in the stands cheering on their teammates.

Kudos to the marketing/sports information folks for getting the game sponsored (by Coke Zero), and for handing out plenty of posters, koozies, and even game programs. Nice job.

The baseball game was excellent. The Citadel beat Samford 2-1 on Saturday, and also won the series by a 2-1 count after dropping the Sunday contest. All in all, the opening conference series for 2013 was encouraging. This team has the potential to be very solid. It has not been as good defensively as it should be. If the squad continues to pitch and hit as well as it has so far, and improves its fielding to at least last season’s level, I believe the Bulldogs can contend for the league title. They have to put together all three of those elements, however.

I took some pictures of some of Saturday’s festivities, including a few shots of the parade, the Beautiful Bulldogs, the spring game, and a few baseball shots. As always, please remember that my photography skills are limited.

Game Review, 2012: Furman

The Citadel 42, Furman 20.

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Notes, The Post and Courier

Game story, The Greenville News

The Citadel’s release

Furman’s release

Postgame interview of Kevin Higgins (video)

WCSC-TV story (with video)

WCIV-TV story (with video)


Well, that was an enjoyable afternoon in the Upstate…

The Citadel spotted Furman a touchdown, came roaring back with some big (and entertaining) plays, hung in there while the contest was still in doubt, took a risk and was richly rewarded for it, and then finished the game in style.

A fake punt was the key play in the game. Furman’s offense had held the ball for the first seven minutes of the third quarter, settling for a field goal after a couple of outstanding plays by Mitchell Jeter (including a 13-yard sack).

The Bulldogs’ D needed to stay off the field for a while, which is why Kevin Higgins elected to roll the dice on 4th-and-5 from The Citadel’s 30-yard-line. Cass Couey has executed fake punts before, though not in a while, but he did his part very well, and eighteen yards later the Bulldogs were near midfield with a fresh set of downs.

Eight plays after Couey’s mad dash, Dalton Trevino took a pitch and raced around the left corner and into the end zone, taking out an official in the process (who was fortunate not to get hurt). Trevino’s TD run was particularly well blocked on the outside.

That made the score 28-20. On the Paladins’ next possession, The Citadel forced a three-and-out. After Furman punted, the Bulldogs scored on an 85-yard drive that featured two outstanding plays by Ben Dupree. The first was a 23-yard pass completion to Terrance Martin on 3rd-and-18. Both the throw and catch were of high quality.

While some observers were mildly surprised by the precise, powerful throw Dupree made to Martin, the 28-yard TD toss he made to Domonic Jones three plays later was exactly the kind of improvisational maneuver that Bulldog fans have come to expect from the Pennsylvania native, only with a twist at the end. He was going to throw, then he was going to run, then he was going to run the other way, then he suddenly pulled up and lobbed the ball into the waiting arms of Jones for an easy touchdown.

That was a fun play. At least, it was fun if you were rooting for The Citadel. For Furman, it was more of the same, as the Paladins struggled in the fourth quarter all season. VanDyke Jones completed the day with his third touchdown of the game on The Citadel’s next series.

Odds and ends:

— Jerodis Williams and Hank McCloud combined to rush for 195 yards on 30 carries. The Bulldogs had trouble all day stopping the run. On the other hand, Furman’s passing game was ineffective, particularly after starting quarterback Reese Hannon left the game with an injury.

That made the Paladins’ occasional deviation from its rushing attack all the more puzzling. Furman had a couple of promising first-half drives that were short-circuited by pass plays gone bad.

I realize that you have to mix things up once in a while, but in my opinion the Paladins should have continued to feed the ball to Williams and McCloud until the Bulldogs actually stopped them. Instead, Furman seemed determined to add to Chris Billingslea’s personal highlights collection.

I also thought Furman gave up on its running game way too early. Neither Williams nor McCloud had a rushing attempt in the fourth quarter; all twelve of the Paladins’ plays in the last period (counting a play wiped out by penalty) were passing attempts or sacks by The Citadel on would-be pass plays.

— While The Citadel has had its own issues with home attendance, the Bulldogs enjoyed a lot more support this year than did the Paladins. Furman averaged just over 9,000 fans per game this season, with Saturday’s finale drawing a crowd of 8,127. A significant number of those in attendance were wearing blue and white, and they made themselves heard all afternoon.

— Furman is building a new football complex. As part of that effort, the current press box is being demolished.

The lower two levels of the complex will be devoted to the football program. The plans include rooms that will accommodate all eight position groups (only four rooms are available now, forcing some groups to meet in locker rooms), and an office for each coach. The training room will be expanded and modernized…

…The complex’s top level will serve as home to working press and feature a spacious television broadcast booth, home and visiting radio booths, coaches boxes, and twin photo decks, as well as public address and ultra-modern video production room…

…[The building is] essential…in terms of Furman’s efforts to be competitive in Division I and the Southern Conference. In recent years, every other conference member has upgraded its athletic facilities.

The facility is scheduled for completion in late 2013.

— The last three times the game between Furman and The Citadel has ended the regular season, the Bulldogs have won, which could be a annoying fact for some members of Furman’s sports information department. As I outlined in my preview, the matchup cannot be the final game of any season in which The Citadel is the home team. As it happens, the Bulldogs will close their 2013 regular-season campaign at Clemson (which, by the way, is the opponent Furman has ended its season against the most times).

I would not put a lot of money on Furman vs. The Citadel being the season finale in 2014, either, but we’ll see what happens.

There was some hope that the Bulldogs could garner an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs. That didn’t happen.

Looking over the bracket, I don’t have an issue with The Citadel not making the field. I would have been disappointed if the Bulldogs were left out at the expense of a team like Lehigh (the Mountain Hawks fashioned a 10-1 record against a tissue-soft schedule), but the teams that did get selected all brought something to the table.

The last two at-large teams in the field were South Dakota State and Stony Brook. The latter school is one of two Big South entrants into the field, which does raise a question, since the Big South is not a strong league (and there are only seven teams in it).

However, I understand why the selection committee took the Seawolves. Stony Brook played two FBS schools this season, and won one of those games, beating Army. Admittedly, the Bulldogs of the Hudson are not a good team, but SBU won the game by twenty points.

Stony Brook also played very credibly in a loss at Syracuse (28-17). I suspect that the Seawolves are a very good team that had one bad afternoon (at Liberty).

I thought the only curious decision the committee made was taking New Hampshire (and giving it a bye) instead of Towson. I think that was probably a mistake, but it doesn’t really affect The Citadel, since the CAA was going to get at least three teams into the field one way or another.

Next year, the playoff field will increase from 20 to 24 teams. I am not sure the Bulldogs would have landed in a 24-team bracket this season. It would have been very close.

I’m sure the players are mildly disappointed at not making the playoffs, but they shouldn’t be. This was a successful season for The Citadel, and having it end with a 22-point victory over Furman in Greenville seems more than appropriate.

Next year appears to hold a lot of promise on the gridiron for The Citadel, but there will be plenty of time to discuss that. Too much time for a lot of people, I’m sure.

For those players who have completed their football careers at The Citadel, many thanks for providing a lot of good memories, especially this season, even if it were at times a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

One more round wound up having a good taste to it.

As usual, I’ll close with a few photos. I had a tough afternoon taking pictures, thanks mostly to a rather insistent beam of sunlight that kept coming over the press box and into my line of sight. The quality of these shots is even worse than normal, which is really saying something…